Onward, upward, backward, homeward

Get back to where you once belonged

— The Beatles

You can’t go home again

     — Thomas Wolfe

The Beatles had more memorable lyrics — “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” notwithstanding — but Thomas Wolfe (and here we mean the “Look Homeward Angel” one, not the modern-day, white-suited “Right Stuff” one) is probably best remembered for that one phrase, which also served as the title of one of his fine books.

“You can’t go home again” — meaning, of course, not that you can’t physically return, but that, if and when you do, what was there then isn’t likely to be there now, or how you remembered it isn’t how it is now, or maybe even how it was then, or that time has a way of erasing your past, just as it will one day lay claim to your future.

Whether one can go home again has been a recurring theme of Travels With Ace. In our journey, we’ve revisited the places of my youth — in Houston, in Tucson, in New York, and in Raleigh. (I had a lot of homes, both in my youth and since — 28 in 16 different towns.) Sometimes the reconnection has been strong; sometimes it has been faint. But you can go home again.

And you should.

And I am.

A week from now I’ll be settling into the modest little apartment unit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in which my parents lived when I entered the world — not with with a bang (though obviously that occured at some point) but with a whimper.

Now, in the denouement of, if not life, at least this blog, it’s back to John: Chapter One, Verse One.

(Note: At 57, I’ve found I prefer my metaphors mixed. So I run them through the blender, on puree, sometimes with an added pinch of Metamucil, ridding them of the hard to digest lumpy bits. They are both tastier and easier to swallow that way.)

In the beginning was the word — and I was born of two wordsmiths. I followed their footsteps into the newspaper industry, put in 35 years or so, then — as newspapers became glimmers of their former selves — jumped ship to write a book, and write these blogs, and find a new identity to replace my old one.

Now, I’ll be stringing them — words, I mean — together in the same room where I once rattled the rails of my crib, documenting the denouement, or the final resolution of the intricacies of my plot, if indeed I have either plot or intricacies.

It will be — at least for a while — the somewhat circular ending of my year on the road with my dog Ace, who has helped me reach the decision.

His herniated disc is still an issue, and the 11 steps down to our temporary apartment in the basement of a mansion, probably isn’t aiding his recovery.

We came here to spend a couple of months close by my mother, and to reconnect with my own roots, much like I sought out Ace’s several years ago.

It was on the way home from one such reconnection, a family reunion, that my mother showed me the house she and my father lived in when I was born. In the window was a “for rent” sign. There was only one step up to enter.

I signed a lease — as is my style, and given my lack of a plot — on a month-to-month basis.

So next week, given my birthplace is unfurnished, it’s back to Baltimore to reclaim my stuff, now nested in a storage unit on Patapsco Avenue.

Then we’ll lug it all back to College Village, a spanking new apartment complex when my mother and father moved in 60 years ago. Now, it’s far less upscale than its surrounding neighborhood, a collection of mostly squat brick units that look like something you’d see on an Army base.

I, having only lived there one year, and it having been my first, have no real memories of it, but it was interesting to see, when I brought her over for a visit, how it triggered some for my mother.

Ace, too, seemed to like it better than the basement. When we dropped by to sign the lease, his tail was up and wagging. He visited the tiny kitchen, then sniffed out the two bedrooms, paying far more attention to the front one. Did my baby smells still linger after 57 years? Only then did he walk up to meet the landlord and his daughter.

Yes, he seemed to be saying, this will do nicely. Only one stair. Lots of sunlight. 

As the landlord ripped the “for rent” sign off the front window, I think my dog and I were coming to the same conclusion — that one intricacy at least, at last, had been resolved, and that we were home, for now.

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4 comments for “Onward, upward, backward, homeward

  1. Barbara
    April 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Love this story. Sounds like a great place for a couple of bachelors to plot their next adventures. Or meditate on the meaning of life and kick back.

  2. April 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Glad you and Ace are gonna have a real home for a while. Maybe your baby booties are still lying around somewhere? The Southwest still awaits your return.

    By the way, feel free to call Mark about Ace’s continuing problem. He wasn’t convinced it was a herniated disc, based on what I told him. Just a thought…

  3. Arnold Kraft Sherman
    April 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    John,
    How need. In my first house I helped my parents when they were at work by plastering the walls with found materials. So started my life as a do-gooder. And, as they say, what goes around comes around. In any event, what fun and how great for Ace. Give me advance warning of your return to Baltimore. Let me know when to reserve time for the storage units. Also, let me know if you want the bookcases. The easily come apart. Anyway, it will be good to see you. And Ace as well.
    Arnie

  4. Brenna
    April 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    John! It is so nice to hear you so happy and at home in NC! You will be greatly missed up here in Baltimore! Don’t think for a second, that, if we could we will be down to visit! As it happens, we have a branch not to far from Winston-Salem, so if I make it down that way we will have to have a drink!

    Let us know when you plan to be in town next week so the crew can take you out!

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